Posted: 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

‘American Idol’ top 12 performance recap 

By Rodney Ho

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: TOP 12: L-R: Ben Briley, Dexter Roberts, Jessica Meuse, Majesty Rose, Alex Preston, Malaya Watson, Caleb Johnson, MK Nobillette, C. J. Harris, Alex Preston, Emily Piriz and Jena Irene on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Thursday, Feb. 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: TOP 12: L-R: Ben Briley, Dexter Roberts, Jessica Meuse, Majesty Rose, Alex Preston, Malaya Watson, Caleb Johnson, MK Nobillette, C. J. Harris, Alex Preston, Emily Piriz and Jena Irene on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Thursday, Feb. 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

We had high expectations for this crew but so far, they aren’t reaching those levels.

And tonight, with the theme “home,” was a tough night for even some of the favorites. There were a lots of middling to decent performances, nothing really mind blowing, nothing horrible. A lot of B grades in my mind. No goosies, no standing o’s.

Favorites Majesty Rose and Jessica Meuse disappointed.  Ben Briley did better than I expected. C.J. Harris did slightly better. I wasn’t as impressed with Dexter Roberts as the judges.

Caleb Johnson and Sam Woolf, while good, are feeling a bit predictable. MK Nobillette has no stage presence. Emily Piriz, no matter how hard she tries, is amateur hour.

My predicted bottom three: Jena, Emily, MK.

I have a feeling Emily is going home though MK is a possibility, too. (Her lack of votes early on after the first hour is a bad sign.) The only guy I think may fall in the bottom three is C.J.

My rankings of the top 12: 1. Ben 2. Sam 3. Caleb 4. Jena 5. Alex 6. Majesty 7. C.J. 8. Malaya 9. Dexter 10. Jessica 11. Emily 12. MK

Jena Irene Ascuillo (“Suddenly I See” K.T. Tunstall) – She does a very sweet rendition with interesting intonations. I enjoyed it. Keith likes her stage presence but didn’t think the song fit her quite right. J. Lo says she’s on the precipice of blossoming on stage. HCJ says she made different choices with the melody. He wanted her to bust out even more. Grade: B-plus

Alex Preston (“I Don’t Want To Be” Gavin DeGraw) – Sure, he looks like Duckie from “Pretty in Pink.” That’s okay. Bo Bice did this song to great effect season four. (The song is THAT old!) Naturally, Alex does a more light rock feel to it. And it surprisingly works. J Lo felt the arrangement overtook his vocals. HCJ said he’s better doing introspective soft songs but appreciates his creativity. Grade: B-plus

Jessica Meuse (“White Flag” Dido) – I liked that she countrified this pop song from a Brit singer but it did feel a little too relaxed, a lacking of urgency.  HCJ said it felt too blase and understated. She was sharp vocally and didn’t feel present, he said. Keith felt she didn’t feel it. J. Lo said she doesn’t look or feel comfortable. Grade: B/B-minus

Dexter Roberts (“Lucky Man” Montgomery Gentry) – He has one of those boring expressionless faces. For a lucky man, shouldn’t he crack a smile? Otherwise, it’s a perfectly passable cover of a lovely Montgomery Gentry song.  Keith liked some of the phrasing shifts and liked him showing his vulnerable side when he messed up near the end. J. Lo said he did surprise a little bit more than he has in the past. HCJ said it was the best performance of the night. Grade: B

Emily Piriz (“Let’s Get Loud” Jennifer Lopez) – She takes a risk doing something uptempo by one of the judges. She isn’t half bad but she just lacks that certain something J. Lo has. She lacks the charisma. It’s just an okay talent show take on the song. J. Lo said she loved it but is biased. HCJ said that took courage but felt she didn’t match the train of the song. The production, he said, was too big for her. Grade: B

Caleb Johnson (“Working Man” Rush) – I am not a Rush fan but he does an energetic and – I dare say – predictable version of the song. And HCJ calls him on being a great at what he does but is really doing anything that makes him truly an artist by himself? Keith said he may rely too much on the band support. Grade: B-plus

MK Nobillette (“Drops of Jupiter” Train) – She looks frightened. Vocally, as usual, it was pleasant. J. Lo said it wasn’t a breakout performance. Keith wants her to connect more. HCJ says it looks like she doesn’t want to be there. She needs to work on things that make her feel uncomfortable and she will improve. Grade: B-minus

C.J. Harris (“Waiting for the World to Change” John Mayer) – He sings this well but he lacks a certain type of stage presence to move it beyond a credible cover. HCJ said he sang consistently sharp but it worked. Keith said all that’s missing is for him making a song “more your own” so it’s more than a cover. Grade: B

Sam Woolf (“Just One’ Blind Pilot) -  He was stronger than a week ago. He has a really warm voice. Keith says it’s like butter. HCJ said he is too one-note emotionally – mid-tempo and pleasant. Even J. Lo says he needs to push outside his comfort zone. Grade: B-plus

Malaya Watson (“Take Me To the King” Tamela Mann) – This song is packed with emotion. She starts out really flat. Then she busts it after she stands up from the piano. Still, her vocals in the upper registers were in key but a little thin. HCJ said this felt more focused and the message is there. “You didn’t go off the rails,” he said. Grade: B

Ben Briley (“Turning Home” David Nail ) – I thought he connected well. I enjoyed what was a very emotional and difficult song. HCJ said it felt “shouted.” J. Lo said he brought it home. Keith said he has a great voice and in the case of that song, there was so much focus on the technicality of the notes, I lost the story and emotion. Grade: B-plus/-A-minus

Majesty Rose (“Fix You” Coldplay) – It started okay. I liked the middle zone but it felt a little off at the end. She didn’t quite get all the notes there. So overall, just good, not great. The judges agreed that she should have stayed quieter and didn’t need to go for the big notes at the end. Grade: B

433 comments
MercedesS
MercedesS

Finally listened to all the contestants. Like Sam, I thought the judges were way to harsh on some people, and let truly awful performances (Emily) slide by.

My faves, in order: Ben, Sam, Alex, Majesty, Jessica, Jena, Dexter, CJ, Caleb, MK, Malaya, Emily.


The way those girls in audience looked at Sam, inches from his face.. why should he change anything? This is how his voters want him.  If that's predictable. what's wrong with predictable? Maybe judges should go with repetitious? Caleb is repetitious.

DoubleNaughtSpy
DoubleNaughtSpy

Going out on a limb and predicting that the lame judges "save" will be used on MK at some point.  It's a PC thing.

DanJohn
DanJohn

Are Adam and Chris still helping mentor? I think it was Deirdre who mentioned that the JUDGES had to tell MK to turn around the guitar if she wasn't playing it. Shouldn't that be something the mentors says? Why even have the guitar if you're not playing it? It has to be an emotional crutch that hides insecurities!


I like Idol doing away with OLD themes, kudos for that! I like honest critiques from the judges who have done a very good job so far! What's missing are good performances. Rightfully or wrongly Randy and possibly the other mentors are not connecting to the contestants. I don't feel a connection to Randy when I see him, he comes across as stand-offish.


Does anyone know why Jimmy Iovine didn't come back? Was it a money issue or just wanting to go back to producing?  If it was a money issue then Idol dropped the ball? Jimmy was the only reason to watch last year and it seemed like the contestants followed his direction fairly well. You cannot teach an old dawg new tricks!!

KellyandCarrieFan
KellyandCarrieFan

Honestly, overall, last night wasn't as impressive I would've hoped. I was really disappointed in Alex's stumble and I Don't Wanna Be? It's not a bad song, but it's been around since I was in college and it's way overplayed. 

Jena: I like her, but the song was just boring. 

Jessica: They are styling her a bit better and it's a good song. I thought she wasn't as bad as the judges made it seem, but that's not a ringing endorsement. I do give her credit for how she handled herself when Ryan asked her about the feedback. 

Emily: Was memorable because it was upbeat in a sea of mid-tempo. I did think she needed to let loose a bit more. The song isn't really a vocal challenge, tho. 

Dexter: I want to like him, really. But he seems to me very much like one more in the pile.

Caleb is to me very much a throwback. He's a likeable guy and talented. 

MK, oy. I want to like her, I do. I know she means a lot to some people. But based on last night, I was very disappointed. She didn't seem comfortable at all and it showed. The song was slow and bland. I want some personality...and come on, the cap can take a day off. Or at the very least, match your cap to your outfit. Sigh. 

CJ: I was bored. 

Sam: I had him picked as my winner, I'm doubting it now, but not too much. He's still a cute WGWG. 

Malaya: Better, but I still feel she is more personality than voice.

Ben: I like Ben a lot more than I thought I would. It was a good song choice and I did feel his confidence on stage. 

Majesty: I love her personality and stage presence. I did wish she'd stayed with the guitar by herself and had a more quiet, emotional moment with the song. 


RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

Adam Lambert is helming Queen for a 19-city tour later this year but the band is not coming to Atlanta.

RxDawg original
RxDawg original

I'm surprised at your low grade on Dexter.   You gave him and Emily the same grade?   Really?   To me, Dexter and Caleb are at the head of the class.   Magesty could of been there with him, but she kinda blew the end of her song.    MK just looks unhappy.   A scorned lesbian that just wont entertain people for a living without learning how to be happy.   She should go.

RoseUp
RoseUp

I'll admit I'm an old timer. I miss the theme nights, when they had to sing Motown, or Elton John, because (a) it made the contestants leave their comfort zones, and (b) quite frankly, the songs were better. I feel as if we're getting the same performances from some contestants, week after week. Randy's mentoring adds nothing. I wish he'd just go away already. The judges are the best since Simon left. HCJ sets the tone with his blunt candor. Even J-Lo no longer coddles. But the talent level is weak for the second consecutive season. If these were the best singers they could find after 100,000 auditions, then something is wrong with the evaluators. 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

I don't think any of us would disagree that the contestants have been a disappointment so far however, we have all heard them sing really well.  We know that they are capable of fantastic performances so we need to start asking what is going on that is producing mediocre results.  

I think that Randy's mentoring may have something to do with it.  I think they have also been ill-prepared for live tv and I also think keeping them in the audience's view for the whole show is distracting them from the focus they need. 

Any other suggestions?

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

Pitchy, re "24", starts May 5th with a 2 hour show - only 12 hours in the series. Opens in London with Jack and Chloe together - I can't wait! This is the show that kept me up late at night every Monday, and the reason I don't watch my current "nerve-wracker" show "Walking Dead" in it's normal time - save it for an earlier hour so I can calm down before trying to go to sleep.

parbogey
parbogey

Watching Idol last night was painful.  IMHO, no one really stood above the crowd but many stood out in a bad way.  Mediocre talent show.  Wow....how the talent level has fallen.

MoSchreibman
MoSchreibman

The telephone rang and as always it was my wifes mother with her perfect timing so only the first six of the contestants on the Idol talent television program did get to see but I have seen more excitement in the podiatrists waiting room than I saw last night. Two corn plasters I give them at most.

DanJohn
DanJohn

@ G, based only on their voices I can only see 4 of the current Idol contestants who would get a chair turn on The Voice. They are Caleb, Jessica, Ben & Majesty.


Honestly I'm not sure Majesty would if it were solely based on her voice. I don't think CJ, Sam or Alex would make it on The Voice.

DanJohn
DanJohn

I re-watched the show and quite honestly I split my 50 votes this way. Caleb=25. Ben=15 & Majesty=10.


I hope MK goes home! Either she is scared or she doesn't want to be there. She had a look in her eyes during a close up that made me feel uncomfortable.


I think the judges critiques are spot on. All in all the judges are the best in years...however something is lacking with the show. Boring and lame are two words that come to mind. Because outside of a couple of contestants most lack the fire, passion of previous years. What I think is becoming obvious is that Idol misses Jimmy Iovine. His work with contestants seemed to draw out the best in them. Granted last year he had nothing to work with from the boys. Truth be known that's a good reason to jump ship. So far Idol has been a disappointment to me.

G_
G_

Overall not a good night for Idol.  The Voice was much better.  The Voice had at least two "A" level performances.  Best peformance for Idol was a "B+".  Props to RoHo for taking time out of his life that he can never get back, to provide decent write-ups on contestants that aren't worth it. 

I think we are seeing pretty much as good as its going to get.  These are excellent musicians that happen to sing fairly well on a good day. 

It really doesn't matter who goes home tonight, but I think it will be CJ. Emily and MK were just plain horrible, and will probably be in the bottom 3, but CJ won't make it. 

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

Good news about Linny, Deirdre - thanks for the info.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

RoHo thanks for Kelly video (and JenHo for the suggestion) - beautiful. I don't think there's a song in the world she couldn't sing magnificently - just fabulous.

Woodpappy
Woodpappy

Oh man....I felt so disappointed last night.  All of them were mediocre at best.  What was it, the "home" project or are these kids just boring????

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

While I have your attention, a piece of good news for a change:  Linny's recent visit to her doctor shows an exciting reduction in her tumors and her doctor is optimistic that they have a handle on controlling her cancer.  

Peter W
Peter W

@MercedesS Best of the week?  Audra McLaughlin over on the Voice.  We may have a spring season winner over there!  Beautiful, strong version of Angel from Montgomery.  Check this young lady out when we get to the battles and the live shows.

G_
G_

@DanJohn

Just blame it all on the black guy.  LOL!!! Just joking.  I know how sincetive some folks can be around here.

I mss Jimmy too, but it's impossible to blame this mess of a season all on Randy.  There are producers, directors and judges that affect the end qualtiy of the product.  I know that Randy has his setbacks, but he's no more responsible than Jimmy is for the show's success.

The ultimate blame is on each and every contestant.  They are accountable for their own performance, whether it's good or bad.  If we can praise them when they're good, we have a right to criticize when they fall short of expectations. 

Tough ticobities.

That's life. 

They must do better. 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@DanJohn  I think Adam and Chris were only there for Randy's boot camp.  I'm pretty sure they are no longer working with the contestants.

If Randy doesn't realize by now that what these contestants need more than anything else is just some basic performance training, then the season won't get better.  Either he starts working with them on that or someone needs to step in and do it.

RoseUp
RoseUp

@RodneyHo  I seem to recall that during Adam's Idol season, after Queen appeared as a guest, they invited him to front the band - a major honor, in my opinion, which he declined. I suppose he sees now, as he didn't then, that maybe it was a pretty good gig after all.

RxDawg original
RxDawg original

@RodneyHo  I saw that he was touring with Queen.   I did not see that they weren't coming to ATL.   That's a bit of a shocker.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@RoseUp  I think one of the problems with the newer more modern songs is that, as listeners, we're still too close to the original

MercedesS
MercedesS

@DeirdreC I'm not disappointed in the contestants.. they've just started out!  Were we this harsh at the beginning of prevous seasons?

G_
G_

@DeirdreC

It's impossible to blame all this negative performance on Randy.  He's just one man with a limited role.  I hold ALL the contestants responsible.  Yeah, they can receive helpfult advice, but ultimately it's up to each performer to take responsibility for there own actions. 

Another factor may be the judges.  We are witnessing the product of their "expertise".  So far, not that impressive. 

Either they have what it takes or they don't.  So far, this thing looks like a high school/college talent show.

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

@DeirdreC Not sure who to blame but Randy clearly isn't helping. He isn't a performer. They need some advice on how to PERFORM, how to connect with songs. This is when having HCJ there with them might help. Or even J. Lo or Keith. All three know how to take a song, embrace it and connect with their fans.

Woodpappy
Woodpappy

@DeirdreC  I'll agree with both your points Deirdre.  Randy Jackson cant hold a candle to Jimmy Iovine.....If the producers don't want to have another "stinker" of a year they better get moving fast and furious...

RxDawg original
RxDawg original

@DanJohn  The talent difference between the voice and Idol is HUGE.   It always has been.   I know Idol likes younger, more amateurish contestants but you'd think out of all those thousands of people they would have some better singers/performers.

KellyandCarrieFan
KellyandCarrieFan

@DeirdreC  D, that is great news. I was not aware that Linny is dealing with cancer. Please send her our best. 

Rickster_
Rickster_

@DeirdreC After the news about Harriett & Nana, it's nice to get some good news!

DanJohn
DanJohn

@G_ @DanJohn I agree that the contestants and their choice of songs along with the performance falls on them. The issue with Randy is this: Is he giving them direction and guidance as it applies to their song choice and performance? The mentors on The Voice are involved in every aspect, even choosing songs. My feeling with Randy is that he does little to persuade the contestants on a song that suits them.


Randy as a record producer is used to working with professionals not amateurs. My feeling is that he is more hands off than hands on. Randy was also quick to judge/fault/question Jimmy last here and now he is in the hot seat. I wonder if this years judges will question Randy at some point! 


From what I saw early on a lot of these contestants have talent, if not the producers did a heck of an edit job on the tapes. If Idol is back next season I don't see Randy being a part of it!

DoubleNaughtSpy
DoubleNaughtSpy

@RodneyHo @RxDawg original


Scott Savol?  Ouch!  Quite the pit bull today aren't we, ROHO?  :)


FWIW, Scott Savol is one of the most irritating contestants ever on AI.  Dexter is Dexter - country boy.  Savol was a home boy wannabe.

RoseUp
RoseUp

@RodneyHo @RxDawg original  I dunno, Rodney. Dexter may be a little heavy like Scott, but Dex seems to have more humility and a better attitude

RoseUp
RoseUp

@DeirdreC @RoseUp  Deirdre, I could write a book on this subject. Young artists had much more creative license and artistic freedom in the 60s & 70s. Kids now have to bend to the dictates of the corporate types who control the industry. As a result, the music feels more like formulated, marketable, assembly-line product. Few artists today seem to be allowed the freedom to individually create a uniquely new style of their own. I find it harder to distinguish between the sounds of J-Lo, Beyonce, Miley, etc. as opposed to, say, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks. Or maybe it's just me.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@RodneyHo @DeirdreC  And you can almost feel the judges' desperation.  Performances skills seem to be the main focus of their critiques.  Even to the point of telling MK to swing her guitar around and grab the mike.  These are things they SHOULD be learning during their rehearsals.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@JTesla  I'm not a fan either.  He's very "one note" and not particularly appealing or talented.

JTesla
JTesla

@RodneyHo You nailed it Rodney, I’d only add that Dexter is a good bar singer you’d see at a bad bar.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@RodneyHo @DeirdreC  The reason we have liked Idol in the past was, in part, the rawness of the talent.  Most contestants were not seasoned veterans of the music industry's lack of attention to their craft.  They were mostly new and innocent.  With The Voice using mostly tried and true lounge and bar singers, along with non-contracted pros, it makes the rawness of the Idol contestants stick out like a sore thumb.  

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

@DeirdreC @RodneyHo And except for the graphics behind them, "Idol" isn't throwing lots of smoke and back-up dancers and "X Factor" riff raff into the mix. The camera work last night included a lot of really really close up shots. That is effective when the singers are NOT looking scared or expressionless but it clearly gave away Sam's nerves and MK's inveterate blankness. 

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

@DeirdreC @RodneyHoIt's a problem I saw season 9, too. The singers weren't bad but their stage skills were awful.